September 8, 2021, Washington, DC: Jenny Simpson is the course record holder (4:16.1) and eight-time winner of the Fifth Avenue Mile — the farthest she’s ever raced on the roads. Jenny is also a three-time Olympian (2008, 2012 and 2016 bronze medalist) and three-time World Championship medalist (gold in 2011, silver in 2013 and 2017). Sara Hall, on the other hand, has run the second fastest marathon ever (2:20:32) for an American woman, and has won 11 USATF National Championships on the roads since 2006, including 10 mile titles in 2018 and 2019. Hall was 2nd American (52:54) when the USATF 10 Mile Championships were last hosted by the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile (CUCB) in 2014.
But Simpson and Hall aren’t the only two American women entered in the 2021 USATF 10 Mile Championships Presented by Toyota. They just define the two extremes of road racing experience represented in what is sure to be an interesting and exciting race for the title of America’s best over 10 miles in 2021.
When Hall and Simpson line up for the women’s-only start at 7:18 a.m. this coming Sunday morning, September 12, they will be joined by Americans Diane Nukuri, Annie Frisbie, Natosha Rogers, Susanna Sullivan, and Bethany Sachtleben, among others. But no runner comes into the race with the same momentum Hall has as winner of three road races this summer, while setting a personal best for 10K on the roads (31:33) at the Mastercard New York Mini. Nukuri may have raced more frequently, with six top-10 road race performances over the last six months, but it was her 5th place result at CUCB 2018 (53:56) that best argues for her inclusion in the conversation about pre-race favorites.
Hall is 38 years old, Simpson is 35 and Nukuri is 36, but this won’t just be a race among veterans if Annie Frisbie has her way. In fact, the 24 year-old Frisbie prevailed over Nukuri at two races this summer, and boasts a 54:00 personal best for 10 miles from the 2019 USATF 10 Mile Championships, when she placed 5th. Another sub-54 minute performer (53:45), Natosha Rogers (30), placed second at the 2017 USATF 10 Mile Championships and returns to the roads after a spring and summer of racing on the track in quest of an Olympic team slot in the 10,000m.
Top DC-area runners Susanna Sullivan (31) and Bethany Sachtleben (29) have proven themselves to be worthy competitors over the years, with Sachtleben placing 3rd among Americans at CUCB 2018 and 2nd among Americans in 2019. Sullivan was 4th American at CUCB in 2014, 5th in 2015 and 3rd in 2017.
American runners will be competing for a total of $26,000 in U.S.-only prize money, from $5,000 for 1st place to $500 for 10th place, paid equally to men and women.
Of course, there’s an international component to the 2021 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile as well. And Kenyans Iveen Chepkemoi (24) and Caroline Rotich (38) will lead the women’s chase for an international prize pool of $20,000, with $5,000 for 1st place down to $150 for 10th place, again paid equally to men and women. American runners placing in the top-10 overall are able to “double-dip” and claim the appropriate payment from both international and U.S.-only prize pools.
Chepkemoi boasts the fastest 10-mile personal best among all the women (51:43), while Rotich won CUCB in 2013 (52:46).
So, who will prevail? The rookie Simpson? One of the 38 year-old veterans, Hall or Rotich? Or one of the 24 year-old up-and-comers, Frisbie or Chepkemoi? There’s an all-out 10-mile race between here and the answer.
A stellar field of American and international men will take to the same 10-mile course at 7:30 a.m. this Sunday, in pursuit of the same titles, prize money and bonuses as the women. Bonuses on offer include $10,000 for a World Record (44:23 men/51:23 women), another $10,000 for an American Record (45:54 men/51:23 women) — either of which will be split evenly among any men and women record breakers — as well as time bonuses of $1,000 and $750 for the first two runners to break 46:00 for men or 52:00 for women. Finally, there is a special prize pool of $1500/$1000/$500 for both men and women who have taken part in the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) RunPro Camp or Roads Scholar programs.
Chris Derrick (30) comes into the USATF 10 Mile Championships with the fastest personal best among the American men (46:53), which he ran at CUCB 2018, placing 5th. He, like many of the other men and women in the race, however, has his sights set on one of the many fall marathons this year, and may be racing on tired legs. Abbabiya Simbassa (30) will also be racing on tired legs, having run the 2021 USATF 20K Championships on Labor Day in New Haven, CT, where he placed 2nd, just one-second shy of the title. Add that to the 2nd places he ran at the 2021 USATF 15K Championships in March, and the recent Asics Falmouth Road Race, and you can imagine how Simbassa’s legs feel going into CUCB 2021. Simbassa was also 2nd American at CUCB 2018 and 2nd at the 2019 USATF 10 Mile Championships (46:57).
A cluster of other American men with 10-mile personal bests that should be competitive include Kiya Dandena (46:58), Augustus Maiyo (47:05), Elkaneh Kibet (47:15), Willie Milam (47:18), Noah Droddy (47:28), and Louis Serafini (47:35). Dandena (32) set his personal best at CUCB 2017, when he was 3rd American; he was also 5th American in 2019 and 7th in 2018. Maiyo (38) set his personal best at the 2019 USATF 10 Mile Championships, while placing 5th. Kibet (38) placed 3rd at the 2017 EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler. Milam (29) ran his best time at CUCB 2019. Serafini (29) was the 6th American at CUCB 2019, and set his personal best at the 2019 USATF 10 Mile Championships, while Droddy (30) ran his best at the 2016 USATF 10 Mile Championships, placing 2nd.
Despite the presence of so many competitive American men, Kenyan runners typically dominate the overall race up front. Stephen Sambu (33) comes into the race with a personal best of 45:29 from his first CUCB victory in 2014. Sambu clearly has the most experience on DC roads of anyone in the field, with wins in 2014 and 2015, a 4th place finish in 2013, and a 5th in 2019. Two other Kenyans, Dominic Korir (28) and Edwin Kimutai (28), are also very worthy of mention. Dominic Korir was 6th overall in CUCB 2017 in a time of 46:45. Kimutai ran 2:08:15 for 4th place at the Harmony Geneva marathon for UNICEF last May. Sadly, Kimutai’s wife passed away on August 23rd — he’ll be running in her memory, and for a young daughter suddenly left without a mother.
The top American man and woman will each earn a spot on Team USA for the 2022 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships, to be held in Yangzhou, China, on March 20, 2022. Should the winning American man or woman decline their Team USA slot, the second place finisher will be offered the slot; there will be no “rolling down” beyond second place.
Elite athlete bios may be found on the event website here, a comprehensive media guide can be viewed here, and copies of all press releases about the 2021 event are here.
With over 8,000 finishers expected in the 10 mile and 1,500 in the 5K Run-Walk, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom marks the return of major road races to the Washington, DC area after 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Event Director Phil Stewart said, “It’s nice to be back and, for once, I’ll be wearing shorts on race morning rather than shivering in a down jacket as I usually am in April.”
With virtual editions held in April 2020 and 2021, the in-person Fall Edition of the 2021 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Runs marks the 20th year of title sponsorship by Credit Union Miracle Day. Since 2002, $10 million has been raised for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, including $439,000 in 2020. Of that $439,000, $66,000 came from runners donating their entry fees instead of asking for a refund when race weekend in our Nation’s Capital was wiped out by Covid-19. Participants in the 2021 in-person race have raised an additional $180,059.